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Forgiveness is hard.
At any point in our lives, we might find ourselves in situations where we become bitter. It might be a breakup, a conflict with a family member, or a misunderstanding with a friend or coworker. It might even be god or life that we can’t forgive.
No matter the situation, our inability to forgive is entrenched in our emotional system.
In the past, forgiveness was a definite no-no for me. Even when I felt ready to let go, I refused to forgive those who had wounded me. I’d reflect on the painful event for years and years, insisting that forgiveness means forgetfulness, and forgetfulness means the absence of closure.
Now, I’m the complete opposite of that old version of me. If anything, I find it hard to not forgive. I’ve been there before, and being adamant about not forgiving jeopardized my peaceful attitude.
But looking back, I can clearly see why I found it hard to forgive people.
For me, forgiveness meant weakness. It meant letting down my guard.
By holding on to the grudge, I thought I was punishing the person who hurt me.
Especially if that person didn’t give me my needed closure, I would hold on even tighter to my bitterness. I’d move on and begin my life anew, but every now and then, I would fuel my resentment. I’d willingly revisit that painful event in my mind (in detail) and remember every emotion, thought, and word.
I’d feel in my bones every inflicted pain and every upsetting line. I’d keep the negative energy alive.
In other words, I wanted to hurt that person the same way they hurt me. My resentment was my shield—my weapon.
And maybe that’s why we find it hard to forgive. Maybe we think if we don’t forgive, we can right the past.
But we can’t right the past. We can’t change what happened. We can’t force closure.
When I realized that I was the only victim of my resentment, I chose a different path. When I realized that the person I’m not forgiving might have already moved on, I chose a different path. When I realized that forgiveness doesn’t mean weakness, I chose a different path.
After years of hurt and unhealthy lingering, I learned that refusing to forgive someone has nothing to do with them. All the pain we wish to inflict on them is redirected to us, really. We are the only victims. We are the only person we’re punishing. The other person doesn’t even know we’re punishing them.
So why do we need to forgive?
Because there isn’t any other way to peace and comfort.
We don’t need to forget, and we surely don’t need to excuse the behavior. We just need to stop lingering.
We need to move past the how could they and why would they. We can never know other people’s motives. We can never know why they did what they did. So what’s the point of holding on to painful events?
Set yourself free because you’re the only prisoner. Remove the anger from your heart because you’re the only angry one. Don’t dwell on betrayals because you’re betraying your own self.
People screw up. Without people messing things up, we wouldn’t appreciate the ones who don’t.
So choose to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice. We choose to let go of our anger, resentment, and yearning for revenge. We choose to not let people control how we feel, even long after they’re gone.
Forgive because everyone makes mistakes.
Forgive because forgiveness means strength.